Even as they prepare for the US trials to reach the London Olympics, American sprinters have Usain Bolt and the Jamaicans, who dominated the 2008 Beijing Olympics, in the back of their minds.
The primary mission is to qualify for the Olympics with a top-three finish at the US meet, but after that comes a rematch in England against a Jamaican sprint squad that was dominant four years ago.
“We want to take that (dominance) back. The US team wants to run well,” said Sanya Richards-Ross, the Jamaican-born US runner who has the fastest times in the world this year in the women’s 200 and 400 metres.
On the men’s side, the best US 100m time this year is 9.87 seconds by Justin Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic 100m champion who was unable to defend his title at Beijing while serving a four-year doping ban.
“A lot of athletes were taken aback by Usain coming up so far so fast. I was able to observe him from afar,” Gatlin said. “He’s human. He’s beatable. He has false started before. He’s not perfect.”
Bolt is, however, the reigning 100m and 200m Olympic champion and 200 world champion, although he false started out of last year’s world 100m final and compatriot Yohan Blake went on to win the world crown.
Bolt set the 100m world record at 9.58 in Berlin at the 2009 worlds and has this season’s three top times, the best a 9.76s to win last month in Rome. He will run in Jamaica’s Olympic trials next week. “We’re planning on them being in that 9.58-area,” said Gatlin’s coach, former US sprint star Dennis Mitchell.
“Whether or not we can get there remains to be seen, but we are working to be our best. Mitchell, third in the 100m at the 1992 Olympics and a member of the 1992 US Olympic 4x100 gold medal relay, echoes Gatlin’s thoughts that Bolt is not unbeatable.
‘No one is perfect’
“There is not a guy on the planet who is not beatable,” Mitchell said. “No one is running the perfect race. There are no perfect sprinters out there.”
London could feature Bolt, Blake and former world record-holder Asafa Powell of Jamaica against Gatlin, Beijing 100 and 200 bronze medalist Walter Dix and former world champion Tyson Gay, coming back after hip surgery last year.
“I’m excited to see these guys I’m competing against run and set down a good time,” Gatlin said. “We’re all going to be on Team USA against the world.”
Mitchell, who began working with Gatlin last October, has been analyzing Bolt and all of the world’s top runners to set better strategy and goals for Gatlin in his bid to redeem his name after the doping ban.
“The Jamaicans have established themselves as a sprint powerhouse. We have to deal with that,” Mitchell said. “There has been an evolution to what they are doing. We have to understand that before we can challenge it, ” Mitchell added.